What We Learned: Colts at Panthers

Some players came back from injury, some players took a step forward, and some took a step back in the Carolina game. What does it all mean? Brad Keller has the breakdown here.

1.  The Colts aren't as interested in a two tight end offense when Marvin Harrison is healthy: When the first-team offense took the field — with Harrison, but without Peyton Manning — they still lined up with three wide receivers in Harrison, Reggie Wayne, and Anthony Gonzalez, as well as tight end Dallas Clark.

Gijon Robinson has been impressive in the preseason, but will he get a roster spot?
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When Harrison did not play in the Hall of Fame game against the Redskins, Indianapolis primarily came out in the two tight end set.

If they stick with the three receivers and one tight end set up for the regular season, that is bad news for Gijon Robinson, Jacob Tamme, or Tom Santi, since the Colts won't need tight ends as desperately as once thought in order to run their base offense.  Harrison, Wayne, Clark and Gonzalez combined for eight receptions for 104 yards and no touchdowns in three series — only one of those series netted a touchdown and the other two ended in turnovers ... more on that later.

The good news is that this formation will be effective throughout the course of the season and Manning and company should enjoy tremendous productivity.

2.  Speaking of Harrison:  He looks fine, he's planting and cutting well, and the knee seems to be very responsive and very healthy.

There have been reports that, even if Harrison manages to play the entire season, he will be limited and playing with pain.  He seemed very at ease Saturday — a good sign for all those Colts fans that saw a dazed, overwhelmed Harrison cough up the ball in last season's divisional playoff game against the Chargers — and, if he missed a beat, it wasn't noticed.

It remains to be seen if he can take the weekly punishment of an NFL season with a knee that is possibly still injured, but if what we saw against the Panthers is any indication, he should be good to go.

3.  There may be a quarterback controversy after all: Working with the second team primarily, Jared Lorenzen looked sharp, going through his progressions, hitting his receivers in stride, making the correct reads, and overall looking considerably more comfortable in the pocket.

There was good touch on his passes and he also showed some zip on the ball, displaying his strong arm, on a few throws.

The BMOC — I kid, but I would weigh much more than 285 if I was 6-foot-4 — also showed surprising speed and footwork, scampering for 24 yards on one scramble and even running away from some defensive linemen.

Gray, on the other hand, only looked impressive on his lone scramble for the night.  He continually checked down to a running back or tight end and the yards gained on those checkdowns made his stats look less atrocious.

The jury is still out on both quarterbacks, but Lorenzen took a very important step on Saturday, making sure that a verdict would not be handed down too quickly.

The Psnthers got up close and personal with Jim Sorgi Saturday
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4.  The Panthers showed what a fierce pass rush looks like: After Jim Sorgi's turnover-laden performance, Tony Dungy mentioned that the mistakes committed were as much a result of the ferocious pass rush of the Panthers — Julius Peppers in particular looked very comfortable after being moved to the right side — as they were of Sorgi's shortcomings.

The debates on whether or not Manning would have made a play — or audibled into a more successful play once he saw the defense — can rage on, but the important thing to remember is that, for the most part, Carolina was playing a vanilla defense and sending only four pass rushers at the quarterback.

They consistently got to him, but any talk of the sky falling or any weaknesses in the Colts offensive line being exposed can be dismissed — this was just a case of a defensive line taking over a football game.  Any Colts fan can remember the apex of the Dwight Freeney/Robert Mathis era when Indianapolis would regularly abuse opposing quarterbacks in a similar manner.

Now that the Panthers have given them such a rude reminder, perhaps the Colts can return to that greatness and turn the heat up on the other team's quarterback.

5. There were two key players missing, but...: Bob Sanders was out and Raheem Brock was playing end, but the Colts once again were gashed early and often up the middle, particularly on Carolina's first two touchdown drives.

DeAngelo Williams looked as though he was running against Tulsa for the first half of the first quarter and, against the maulers up front for the Panthers, the Colts front seven offered little resistance.

Granted, this is how the championship season of 2006 went, but it leaves one to wonder how many tricks this defense has up its sleeve.

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